MONTEREY, Calif. – Colton Herta kept WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca all in the family by continuing an impressive Herta family record at the 11-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course Saturday afternoon.
The 21-year-old Andretti/Curb-Agajanian driver won the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey with a fast lap at 1:10.7994 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. It was the seventh pole position of Herta’s career and the second-straight pole at Laguna Seca for the son of former driver and current team co-owner Bryan Herta.
Colton Herta also won the last NTT IndyCar Series race at this track in 2019 from the pole, leading 83 of the 90 laps in that race. The track was shut down last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bryan Herta won three-straight poles here from 1997-99 in CART and won back-to-back races at Laguna Seca in 1998 and ’99.
A victory in Sunday’s race would be Colton Herta’s fifth win, passing his father. Bryan Herta won four races – two in CART and two in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“Obviously, I think the goal is to beat everybody on wins,” Herta said. “I think it shows. A lot of people that raced against him respected him; thought he was a really great driver. When you can pass somebody like that on career wins, it definitely means a lot.
“Also, it means a lot to do it at a place like this. I don’t know what makes me better here and then Indy GP seems like it’s a permanent road course that I’ll struggle at. Obviously, they’re very different. I don’t know what makes it better.
“Compared to my teammates, we’ll go out in one session, I’ll gain time in slow corners, then the next session I’ll be better in the faster corners. It’s kind of hard to mix and match.
“Maybe it’s a bit of the tire wear and having a car that’s uneasy, and you’re not really certain where the grip level is. Maybe it’s something like that. But I can’t say 100 percent what it is.”
Whatever is the Herta family secret, the 21-year-old driver will run with it into Sunday’s race that starts at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Herta is hoping to become the 15th pole winner to win at Laguna Seca in 25 starts.
“It will be interesting to see what the extra five laps adds to the race,” Herta said of the extended race distance. “That’s going to make tire wear, especially stints on the reds, even more critical. It will be interesting to see.
“My initial feeling is that it’s going to be a Black race (referring to the harder compound Firestone Blacks). You’re going to want to get off those Red tires. I guess the important thing we’ll try to learn about is how long can we make those tires last before the huge drop-off comes in.”
Herta’s teammate, Alexander Rossi, will start second after running a fast time at 1:10.9951 in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda. He moved up from third after one of Will Power’s laps was disallowed by IndyCar officials after Power drove through a local yellow for Pato O’Ward’s spinning car.
Power was dropped to third as his second fastest lap at 1:11.1317 was fast enough to keep the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet in the top three.
“I wish sometimes in racing you got to decline penalties because I think we would have rather started third than second,” Rossi said. “It’s great for the team to lock out the front row. I think that’s a big testament to the development that continues to happen with the whole organization and the progression that we’ve made really since the summer break.
“It’s a great result for the guys. Obviously, Colton did a great job. We knew he was going to be difficult to beat here, obviously winning from pole last year.
“We think we have a good shot at it tomorrow. We’re happy with the car. We haven’t made many changes this weekend. The used tire pace seems okay. We’ll just wait and see what tomorrow brings.”
Power was third followed by current NTT IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou, who qualified the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda at 1:11.3317.
Palou holds a 25-point lead over Pato O’Ward with two races left.
Oliver Askew qualified the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda fourth at 1:11.8937 with O’Ward rounding out the Fast Six at 1:24.2715.